Progressive Christians?

The question is straightforward: Is it possible to be a progressive and a Christian?
Progressives continually exhibit the kind of stupidity to be found only amongst the intellectually brilliant or the terminally trendy, unfortunately when it comes to matters of faith they remain true to type. Before you dismiss it out of hand I would assert that out of common compassion for the less fortunate this is a question worth considering.

After all progressivism is an overarching belief system with acolytes to be found in many faith groups; Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Wiccan, they all have their progressive bacillus lurking within.  Just wait and pretty soon we will have progressive Muslims, they will be the ones who allow their women to wear pastel burkhas and niqabs from Laura Ashley.

There are even some denominations masquerading as Christian which are almost totally given over to progressivism; The Episcopal Church in the USA, the Scottish Episcopal Church, many Methodist bodies and given a few years time the Church of Scotland.

Despite their presence in so many faith groupings, especially the Christian ones, it is difficult to distinguish between a progressive and an atheist. It would be cruel to assert that therefore progressives are ipso facto atheists, but it must be admitted that it shortens the odds.

Agnostics they most certainly are, and they should be proud of the exemplary firmness with which they maintain their lack of belief. What else are you but an agnostic when doubt is a sign of intellectual integrity and the certainty that Jesus is the only name given under heaven by which men must be saved is seen as insensitive triumphalism?

Go to a progressive led congregation and as the bemused emerge into the light of day ask them in which Testament we can find the Book of Hezekiah. The betting is that around 80% will plump for the Old Testament because it sounds Jewish, 15% will make a blind guess of the New Testament, the remaining 5% will be honest enough to admit they don’t know, and 0.01% will realise just what you have asked them.

That progressive Christians (PCs) are unable to teach the Bible is not just because they are rigorously selective in their occasional glance at it. PCs fail to understand the Bible because they have never studied theology, religious studies being their discipline of choice. Religious studies is to theology what Paris Hilton is to rugby league. If you can’t get into media studies or surfboard technology then religious studies is a safe haven.

There is, however, one area of dogmatic faith amongst PCs, environmentalism. Having only a hazy idea of God the the PC naturally disparages those made in the image of the Creator and instead opts for the worship of the created. They haven’t quite worked out that bit about being “worth more than many sparrows.” Nope, natterjack toads and great crested newts are what floats their god’s boat.

After the environment the great campaign of the PC is to indefatigably strive to stem the rampant decency of the common people. Our progressive brethren are “Shocked, shocked I say,” to realise that there are unenlightened Neanderthals out there who believe that marriage is a life long monogamous commitment between a man and a woman; who think that the safest place for a baby should be in its mother’s womb; who believe that there is a distinction to be found between right and wrong. Such simple decency is an affront which must be halted in its tracks before any more of our precious youngsters are corrupted. And our PCs are just the chaps to stem the fearful tide of wholesomeness and good living.

Are PCs atheists? No, they believe in a god, just not the God of the Bible.

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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4 Responses to Progressive Christians?

  1. You ask a difficult question here, not least in light of the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any agreement as to what ‘progressive’ is. Some would say that it is a social reform movement concerned with improving the lot of the most marginalized in society (in many ways capturing, and secularizing, some of the better practices of the 18th/19th century Evangelicals), others would say it’s a ‘small government’ version of Socialism, or perhaps it is a Conservative but interventionist government.

    Without a clear, or at least clear-ish, consensus on what is being discussed it’s not going to be easy to answer the question.

    Using some of the markers contained in the post:

    Lack of knowledge of the bible: if that is a mark of progressiveness then, yeah, many churches, even evangelical lead ones, are full of progressives who love Christ and are Christian.

    Doubt as a sign of intellectual integrity: again, yes. Churches are full of Christians who see integrity in answers of ‘I don’t know’, ‘I think’ or ‘I am unsure’ to questions, preferable to a dishonest presentation of assurance. ‘Fake it till you make it’ isn’t respected as much as it once was, and I, for one, think the disrespect is merited.

    Environmentalism: Surely anyone who has read and believes Genesis must have a concern about stewardship of the creation, as well as the concern for those ‘worth more than the sparrow’. It is rarely, if ever, an either/or situation.

    In as much as ‘Christian’ is a cultural modifier and not a culture, I’d have to say that it is possible, even desirable, to have Christian Progressives inculcated within progressive cultures. Unless one (erroneously) equates ‘Christian’ with politically and/or ideologically ‘conservative’, a la U.S. Evangelicalism, I don’t see how ‘progressive’ is antithetical to ‘Christian’. But it may be that a more complete articulation of the core distinctives of progressiveness will highlight an insurmountable antithesis.

  2. Pingback: There is Nothing to Fear in Doubt « Confessions Of A YEC

  3. Colin Strong says:

    Progressive Christianity is a complete misnomer. Those who subscribe to these views are actually regressive as they seek to do away with the progressive revelation of scripture and replace it with human thinking. True Progressive Christians (although they would not use that designation) are those who seek to advance the Kingdom of God by holding out the message of salvation

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